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The Lasting Relationship Between Divorce and Relapse

I've experienced the heartbreak of losing my husband and then my sobriety. Over and over again.

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By Alexandra Frank

03/22/13

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When youʼre going through a divorce, people donʼt know whether to say “Iʼm sorry” or “Congratulations.” Youʼre single again but now youʼre a divorcée—somebody good enough to marry but too damaged to stay married to. People kept telling me not to jump into a relationship right away. Nobody wants to hear about your “ex” all the time. His name was tattooed on my ring finger and every time I typed, every time I smoked, every time I got a manicure, there it was glaring back at me, an indelible reminder of my past life, my past love.

When youʼre divorcing you feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under you, and youʼre bare, on new ground, tripping, stumbling. You want security and you seek it out everywhere and anywhere from any thing and any body.

Divorce is a heady mix of heartbreak, loss and the terror of abandonment. But it doesn’t kill you. It just makes you want to die.

It’s hard to describe the sadness or sense of betrayal a divorce evokes. It brings you to your knees and then down some more. It is a heady mix of heartbreak, loss and the terror of abandonment. But it doesn’t kill you. It just makes you want to die.

When my ex and I met in the rooms, he had four months of sobriety and I had nine. We dated for two months, broke up for six, got back together and married four months later. It was a whirlwind romance and a rocky marriage from the start.

At three and a half years of sobriety, I attempted suicide with a pill overdose after a heated argument. I was promptly thrown in the psych ward. After that incident—as it was an abuse of medication—I restarted my sober time. I then managed to cobble together a year and half of sobriety. I relapsed again during my marriage on oxycodone for a shoulder injury. It quickly led to drinking. The marriage was unraveling and instead of addressing it, I retreated deeper into my addiction. One night, high on oxy and enraged, I pulled a knife on my husband. I never intended to hurt him. It was just a drug-infused dramatic move that backfired horribly. He called the cops. That was the grand finale.

After I detoxed, the binge drinking continued. I had separated from my husband and was staying with my best friend. When she was around, I went to meetings and cried. A lot. When she was working, I found myself at the local gas station, stocking up on malt liquor and cigarettes. I would walk home with my ominous brown paper bag, knowing I would spend the day drunk, crying, smoking and listening to Sinead O’ Connor and Elliot Smith. I was in mourning. This was my job.

Over the next four months, I ended up in the psych ward not once but twice for drinking and suicidal ideation. I called my husband from the psych ward, hysterical, begging into the payphone in my flimsy green robe.

“Hi. I’m sorry. Are you there?” I sniffled. Silence.

“Hello?” I said again.

There was a deep sigh and then: “I can’t do this anymore. Get yourself out of there and get a job.”

I promptly hung up, shocked and furious.

“You said till death do we part, you fucker!” I screamed aloud to no one. Then I began to howl.

The jig was up. He would no longer let me take him emotionally hostage. That’s what I do: People don’t do what I want and I drink or attempt suicide. You hurt me, I'll show you: I’ll kill myself. You don’t do what I want or need, I’ll get loaded. And that’s a game changer. Always. But only if people agree to play.

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